I fully intended on posting this from Malaysia but internet there is not exactly reliable. If you were following my twitter, you would have seen some regular updates about what we were seeing on our videos and some photos of the gorgeous islands we were working at. This is the longer account of my first trip as part of the Global FinPrint project. I’m going to split up this post because it’s a bit long. Part 2 will be posted in 2 weeks.
Ok, so to start off with our first tasks in Malaysia: getting work permits and access licenses to do research in Sabah. Thankfully, permits didn’t take too long because of the help from Scuba Junkie. By the time we needed it, we had our access licenses from Sabah Biodiversity Council, research permits from Sabah Parks, security approval from ESSCOM, and Professional Visas from the immigration department. Once we had everything in place, our actual work could get started!
The first location we sampled was the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP) off of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. We were on the water for 6 days and collected 114 videos! Most days we did 4 sets of 6 BRUVS (baited remote underwater video systems), although some days we couldn’t do all 4 due to timing. Steve and I worked out a really good system within the first day and were able to set out the 6 BRUVS in 20-30 minutes. Once they were set, we then waited for each to have been underwater for a full hour before we went to retrieve them. Our waiting time consisted of listening to music and swimming, not a bad way to be “doing work.” We usually had a staff member from Scuba Junkie on the boat with us, in addition to a captain. All the staff were heaps of fun and helped us with their local knowledge. All the sampling we did in the TARP went very smoothly, more so than expected.
Once we had completed a day of sampling, we went back to our rooms and downloaded all the videos. Each video had to be put onto 3 hard drives for extra data security, after all this data is important and expensive to get. After doing our downloading, we would have a bit of a quick peek through the videos to see if we got any sharks or rays. No surprises, we didn’t get sharks in the TARP, except for one video with 2 curious blacktip reef sharks. It also happened to be the last video we set - lucky, lucky, lucky! We did see a bunch of rays though, mainly bluespotted stingrays and bluespotted ribbontailed rays. There was one eagle ray that soared by in the background of one video as well. In addition to our work, we did have quite a bit of fun. The people who work at Scuba Junkie, as well as their friends in KK, were so welcoming and we had some really great nights with them!
Semporna was the next stop for us in Malaysia. There were 2 locations we would sample, the northern and the southern islands. Our original plan included over 10 different islands, however, due to the threat of pirates, we weren’t allowed to visit some of the planned islands. ESSCOM, the organisation in charge of safety on the East coast, went through our sampling plan and told us where we could and couldn’t go. At some islands we even had armed guards join us on the boat! This was only done as an extra precaution. Recreational dive boats were still going to the islands we were at, and they were diving without guards. Either way, it was kind of cool to be doing research with our own personal Malaysian army guards.
I’m going to cut it off there for this post, otherwise it’ll just get way too long. I promise another post in 2 weeks about how sampling in the east coast islands went. Before the end though, I really must say that Scuba Junkie is an amazing organisation that really cares about the ecosystem and the people near where they operate. The staff are always happy and ensure that customers have the best time when diving with them. If you are looking to dive in Malaysia or Komodo National Park in Indonesia, please consider Scuba Junkie! I have been diving with them as a customer before and loved it and now that I've had the opportunity to work with them, I am only more impressed with the operation. Anyways, that's my huge plug for them (which they didn't ask for), thanks for tuning in! As always, feel free to share, comment, and ask questions :).
Thank you for reading,